Labour moves to back down on Three Waters entrenchment clause, as advice shows MPs warned of constitutional problems a year ago & More Trending News

 

Dairy homeowners set to stand in solidarity, the ‘harmful’ Three Waters provision attorneys are calling out and healthcare pay parity within the newest New Zealand Herald headlines. Video / NZ Herald

Labour is within the early phases of a backdown on its controversial determination to entrench elements of the Three Waters laws – a transfer constitutional consultants mentioned set a “dangerous precedent”.

The transfer got here as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins admitted to not being conscious that a recent transfer to entrench a half of the invoice had been put till after it was handed. Official advice offered to Local Government minister Nanaia Mahuta greater than a year ago warned that even Labour’s unique entrenchment proposal may very well be constitutionally damaging.

Ardern mentioned Cabinet thought of the problem of the entrenchment clause on Monday and resolved to kick the matter back to Parliament’s Business Committee – a cross-party group of MPs that debate the working of Parliament.

It now seems doubtless the half of the invoice that was entrenched can be eliminated earlier than the laws is lastly handed within the subsequent sitting block.

Ardern mentioned she agreed with issues raised by members of the authorized group and that she needed to be “cautious about where the principle of entrenchment [is used]”.

Last week, Labour and the Greens voted for an modification to Three Waters laws that entrenched a specific clause, that means it may solely be repealed with the assist of 60 per cent of Parliament, or a referendum – until MPs determined to cross a constitutional crimson line and repeal the entrenchment with a naked majority.

Constitutional consultants, in an open letter, mentioned the transfer was uncommon and violated the conference that solely particular elements of New Zealand’s electoral legal guidelines that reduce to the very coronary heart of our structure are entrenched.

This represented a departure from that as a result of it entrenched a coverage situation, specifically that water providers couldn’t be privatised.

Ardern appeared to aspect with these issues on Monday.

“Understandably, there have been those with a constitutional law background that have raised principle concerns around where entrenchment is used,” Ardern mentioned.

“We agree we do need to be cautious about where the principle of entrenchment [is used]. Our plan is to go back to the Business Committee, discuss where entrenchment is used more broadly, and look to resolve the issue,” Ardern mentioned.

She maintained that the entrenchment within the Three Waters laws was barely completely different, as a result of it entrenched the clause at a threshold of 60 per cent – that means 60 per cent of MPs or a profitable vote at a referendum can be wanted to repeal it.

The entrenched elements of the electoral act had been entrenched at 75 per cent, a far larger threshold.

The constitutional implications of the transfer had been solely picked up over the weekend in a collection of tweets from Victoria University Associate Professor Dean Knight.

Knight mentioned he “welcomed” information of a “rethink”.

The amendment came from Green MP Eugenie Sage. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
The modification got here from Green MP Eugenie Sage. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

“Elevated protection against future legislative change for a matter of policy like anti-privatisation would sit uncomfortably with our constitutional traditions and conventions. And would have opened up a huge can of worms, where entrenchment is able to be used as an ideologically-driven political tool, rather than, as they should, be reserved for constitutionally-significant democratic protections that are truly above politics.” Knight mentioned.

He mentioned it was “pleasing” Ardern had “recognised and accepted that the last minute entrenchment doesn’t square with those principles and that the issue needs more time to breathe”.

“It’s right that proposed constitutional changes like this get closer scrutiny and considered input. We will be watching the Business Committee closely to see how they find a solution to the current problem and broader issue of what should be protected and how,” he mentioned.

Knight mentioned the Bill can be recommitted to the Committee of the Whole to take away the clause earlier than the Bill is handed into regulation. The Committee of the Whole is the stage within the legislative course of the place MPs are ready to make amendments to the invoice clause-by-clause.

National’s justice spokesman Paul Goldsmith mentioned the Government ought to simply commit the invoice back to the Committee of the Whole stage as an alternative of going by the Business Committee First.

“It’s got nothing to do with the Business Committee really. The Government should just admit they made a mistake and commit to fix it instead of fluffing around,” Goldsmith mentioned.

The Government first proposed entrenching anti-privatisation measures within the invoice in April of this year

Ministers mentioned National ought to back their modification to guarantee water property couldn’t be privatised until a 75 per cent Parliamentary majority may very well be reached or a majority of voters supported privatisation in a referendum.

National mentioned it might not privatise water property, however wouldn’t back the modification out of its broader opposition to Three Waters.

Advice from Officials on the Department of Internal Affairs on Labour’s first proposal warned ministers greater than a year ago that entrenching, even with National’s assist, would elevate constitutional questions.

Officials warned that “[e]ntrenching a substantive policy setting in this way is also likely to create a precedent, resulting in a push for more significant policy settings to be entrenched in the future”.

The advice warned that “[a]t minimum, clear cross-party support from the significant majority of MPs is be required to entrench provisions”.

Officials mentioned anti-privatisation elements of the invoice ” might be further strengthened without resorting to entrenchment, and we are happy to explore these options with Parliamentary Counsel [the Government’s law drafter]”.

After National rebuffed Labour’s offer of entrenching the clause together, the issue appeared to die.

That is, until Green MP Eugenie Sage put up an amendment to the bill last week to entrench at a lower threshold of 60 per cent.

Remarks from Ardern and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins on Monday made it clear that there were mixed levels of knowledge of the amendment among Labour’s leadership, despite Labour voting in support of the amendment.

“The last I had heard was for a 75 per cent entrenchment which would have failed with only Labour and the Greens supporting it,” Ardern said.

“I wasn’t aware until after the fact that that had been lowered to 60 per cent – I wasn’t in the House when it happened,” Hipkins said.

Sage defended the amendment saying the “only way to guarantee a water secure future for our kids is to keep infrastructure and services in public ownership – and to protect this principle in law”.

“We agree that entrenchment should be done only for matters of utmost importance. Retaining the public ownership of water assets meets this threshold,” she said.

For extra from Thomas Coughlan, hear to On the Tiles, the Herald’s politics podcast

Labour moves to back down on Three Waters entrenchment clause, as advice shows MPs warned of constitutional problems a year ago

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Labour moves to back down on Three Waters entrenchment clause, as advice shows MPs warned of constitutional problems a year ago

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